But must draw strength from their roots and citizens journalists
By Thomas L Blair, 18 March 2021 © member National Union of Journalists
Campaigning with a conscience, hundreds of leading mainstream Black journalists and freelancers have posted an open letter to the whites-mainly, “we are not racists” Society of Editors, once again. This time in the aftermath of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, bombshell claim of UK media abuse and bigotry in their interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Admittedly the letter writers aim at persuasion and put their position on public record. But it will take more than periodic and decades of damning letters to influence uncaring, news profiteers – the editors and media barons.
Take heed: Rehabilitating the media is a sham if only the powerful and majority culture is given the means to voice their reality and experiences
So, what to do? Now is the time to gain strength from their proud history, recognise the value of the new social media innovators and organise for a stronger collective future.
Remember Your Roots in the University of Adversity
First, gain strength of purpose from the iconic forebears — the graduates of the University of Adversity. Honour the earliest Black American abolitionists and suffragettes writing and lecturing in Great Britain and Ireland circa 1845-1894. Frederick Douglass, editor of the North Star, famously said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress… Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Ida B Wells exploited as many connections to Victorian print culture as she could to maximize her message: “to tell the black people’s side of the story”.
Dig deep in Amy Ashwood Garvey’s Caribbean News and Claudia Jones’ West Indian Gazette who trumpeted the Black British perspective in the mid-20th century: Jobs, Self-development and Trade Union Solidarity. Be heartened by Aubrey Baynes who’s West Indian World countered media prejudice “to illuminate the dark corners by printing the truth’.
Appeal to Social Media Innovators
Second, diversity and Inclusion are essential elements of a functioning, free and equal media and society. Supplement traditional news reporting on Black communities with informative content from blogs, websites and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Scroll through Black Cyberspace for headline stories. Straight from the unfiltered, real-time conversations, opinions, activities, between consumers and influencers, often across racial and faith lines.
Click on the Black Journalists’ Collective UK, a support network seeking to embrace and elevate Black journalists and entrants to news work.
Visit the Black Cultural Archives to discover how Black people have strived to record their histories, while speaking for and representing themselves.
Browse Gal-Dem to gain the perspectives of people of colour from marginalised genders. Tweet Black Ballad a lifestyle platform telling the human experience through eyes of black British women.
Monitor the advocacy campaigners The Institute of Race Relations and The Ubele Initiative.
Blog with The Muslim News and Keep the Faith on equality issues facing ethnic and faith communities. Try messaging with Marcus Ryder MBE, media diversity academic at Birmingham City University.
Charting the Future
The unrepresentative nature of the media is rightly a concern. Black journalists of the past never pretended to maintain news balance. Nor did they believe that it was a necessary element of good journalism. They recognised that “neutral coverage” in the mainstream media reinforces white supremacy. So they eschewed “objectivity” and focused on portraying the truth of racial injustice.
Therefore, Black journalists have more to do than write polemic letters to media hypocrites. It’s time to associate together – cementing bonds and gaining the strength of solidarity.
Time to learn from their own history and the social media innovators.
Time to reject the bosses and algorithms in charge of what the Black audience reads and thinks.
Time to organise and act with communities to shape British Black journalism in the future, without fear or favour.
The Chronicleworld Weblog, published since 1997, is the premier opinion journal informed by expertise, research and debate on Black Britain and the African Diaspora.
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